Once regarded as a niche medium with minimal appeal, podcasting is now big business. Almost everyone has a podcast these days, including some high-profile celebrities who are typically associated with mainstream media. Over the past decade, podcasting has grown beyond its humble roots and evolved into one of the most popular broadcasting techniques.
Podcasting's Early Origins
Even before the term podcasting was coined, audioblogging was picking up steam in the late 1990s. The emergence of internet radio shows was fuelled by improvements in audio compression, as well as the introduction of relatively speedy DSL connections. The only thing that was missing was a syndication method.
The First True Podcasts
By the turn of the century, portable MP3 players from Apple and eGo made it a snap to listen to content on the go. Many credit Adam Curry and Dave Winer with creating the first modern podcast app, known as iPodder. The program gave users the ability to download podcasts automatically using web feeds.
Podcasts Go Mainstream
Slowly but surely, podcasting became just as hot as blogging was just a few years prior. Thanks to simple distribution services like Liberated Syndication and cheap audio hardware, anyone could launch a podcast on a budget. Established names like Adam Carolla, Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Ira Glass eventually got in on the action and gave the medium an air of legitimacy.
Legal Challenges Faced & Overcome
While podcasting has experienced meteoric growth, the journey hasn't been without its snags. The infamous Personal Audio LLC patent troll case threatened to kill off podcasting altogether. Fortunately, the efforts of outfits like the Electronic Frontier Foundation as well as high-profile podcasters defeated the patent threat to free podcasting.
The Rise of the Networks
Easily, the most significant recent development in the podcasting world has been the rise of podcast networks that include an array of related shows. Established media companies are recruiting old and new talent to capitalise on the “grassroots” appeal of podcasting. Already, millions of advertising dollars are chasing listeners via podcasts both large and small.
The Future of Podcasting
At the moment, there are at least 100,000 English-language podcasts on the web, with more being added every single day. Expect to see virtual reality tools like Oculus Rift take podcasting to the next level by making it more immersive and interactive. Whatever happens next, podcasting is here to stay for the foreseeable future.